Audiobooks – A Deep Dive into the Truth of Reading

I LOVED this informative session on what audiobooks are, are not, and continue to be.

May 11 – 11:00 am – 12:00 pm The Power of Audiobooks

(Check out the awesome referenced sources at the bottom of this post)

Jerey Stainbrook / Assistant Branch Manager / St. Mary’s County Library he/him/his

John Owen / Director / Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled he/him/his

Ashley Biggs / Marketing & Outreach Librarian / Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled she/her/hers

Andrew Russell – Explained the production and process of audiobook creation.

The Readers’ Advisory Interest Group, in collaboration with the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled, will: (1) illustrate the importance of audiobooks in libraries;

(2) demonstrate how libraries may become more aware of the services provided by the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled; and

(3) distinguish between various appeal factors in audiobooks for better readers’ advisory interactions and conversations with patrons.

The panel of experts and research presented was SUPERB – and from the beginning, the difference between text to text speech technologies (not human voice) versus audiobooks was established. Also, the point was made that there exists no single term for all spoken recordings. And yet, one of the biggest myths is that “listening” to a book is not reading. I LOVED the fact that when you consider the point of view of someone that does not have vision to physically read a book visually as another does, this point becomes “clearer” in principle.

In fact, some of the benefits of audiobooks through science tests to show the reduction of pain and anxiety despite that many have considered audiobooks not reading, or inferior to print and that this form cannot substitute print. Some consider an audio book “cheating” when it comes to reading. 100% false.

In reality, there is no difference to listening compared to reading a book. It was pointed out there is bias in literature about how well people read AND what people read. An important fact is that when you consider audio reading 2nd rate, then you also consider the person taking part in audio reading second rate, and that is not the case when you look at the benefits of audio reading and their impact on comparable comprehension.

Looking in history, there has been privilege associated with the ability to consume literature base don geographic, language, and literary considerations. Combined with the Western love of literature, it is easy to see how much print is romanticized and valued above all other forms.

It was pointed out that when we consider books we consider:

pleasure of characters




an impulse to what happens next

The strength of an audiobook can bring the above to life, as well as a level of intensity a print book cannot reach. The element of sound brings new meaning to setting, conflict, and so much more. With audiobooks also being an issue of diversity of inclusion, and 43 million adults in the U.S. considered at the low literary level, (see this study in 2020 showing levels at 54% being at a 6th grade level), the power of audio books to:

provide an education mechanism, appeal to different sensory modalities, not to isolate readers, and intensify reader’s surroundings is very much real.

The book Lanny is a perfect example of how difficult it might be for readers to process the order of reading in print, differentiating the tones of different dialogue as is indicated to the advanced reader though italics and other physical cues, and with the audiobook, many of this is differentiated to the audio listener and is able to present this to the listener, where in print a reader could easily struggle.

When considering children and audiobooks the following characteristics play a vital role when it comes to reading: promoting family literacy, the ability to test driving another genre that might not be as interesting diving into a book / print, promoting personal growth of a read, literary techniques exemplified such as in the book Ready, Player One, and the ability to connect with new authors in a different way than others do. All of these are additions and bonuses to promoting literacy, the same as any print book would.

Why are audio books important? The ability to help language learners, assist individuals with a special need, the ability to draw in new readers, and the ability to adjust varying speeds to appeal to the abilities of readers are all additional, spectacular benefits of audiobooks.

Questions regarding which audiobooks are best for ESL learners also can be found in several places (podcasts too!)

From those concentrated and related to Australia

These recommended audio books

To recommendations and tips in utilizing the power of audiobooks

In discussing the services of the Maryland State Library for the Blind & Print Disabled, I learned MUCH about what types of devices are available, and it was exciting!

Due to there being only 1/10 books for the disabled, services are available to remedy this.

At the Library of Congress, records exist containing audiobooks and the following devices are available as well:

Assistive Technology –

Digital Audiobook PlayersObtaining a free player in D.C. (which has USB access and other accessories)

Braille collection – (The Maryland State Library for the Blind & Print Disabled has the largest braille collection outside of D.C!)

NLS Digital Braille Reader

Downloads in Braille

Bookshre by Benetech

Braille for tots

National Federation of the Blind – Newsline – (synthetic voice versus recorded voice in audio books)

It was interesting to hear from Andrew Russell the technical process that goes into creating an audiobook (and the length of time needed to create a quality audiobook is more understood when you dive into the meticulous process of doing so).

The temporal benefits of audio books is definitely an interesting one.

PLEASE check the bottom for some amazing studies and the works that help to support so much knowledge about audiobooks and their benefits.

I did like that limitations were presented such as those of pacing, audiobooks sometimes being a difficult entry point for some people with learning disabilities, and the voice of the reader may impose some difficulties for the listener.

It was AWESOME that a reader’s advisory was listed and that this was emphasized:

Audiobooks are NOT simply recreation, they ARE reading. This is reading, just like all forms of reading that empower all readers. The important point made, listening patrons might not be looking for read-a-likes as you do in print, but looking for “feel-a-likes” as audio taps into a new sensory of realization for readers and yes, readers, not just listeners!


The Island of Missing Trees – Elif Shafak

A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James

Light of the Jedi – Marc Thompson (think of the amazing sounds with this story!)

Milkman – Brid Bennan

The one thing to consider is the following awards given to audio books and with this many Awards, it is impossible to deny the power and impact of audiobooks on readers!:

Audie Awards

Notable Childrens Records

Amaon audiobooks

Earphone Awards

Spoken Word Grammy Award

Odyssey Award/YALSA

Works to read up on re: Research

Alter, A. 2012 – Can you Hear Me Now?

The new Explosion in Audio Books

Dali, K. A not so simple matter of audio books.

Harrington, A. It is too reading! (Currently searching for this resource)

Hyden, E. Reading Group: Librarians and Social Inclusion (Currently searching for this resource)

Marchetti, E. Interactivity and multi modality in language learning the untapped potential.

Schlab, Baling. Decreasing materiality from print to screen reading.

Tattersal, W.E. and Nolan Time to Read. Explaining the Space of subscription based audiobooks.

Moore, Jennifer, And Maria Cahill. “Audiobooks: Legitimate ‘Reading’ Material For Adolescents?” School Library Research 19 (2016): N. Pag. Print.

(Moore 4).


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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